Music is frequently a form of therapy, not just for its listeners, but its creators as well. It’s precisely because of these cathartic and/or comforting qualities that some truly wonderful music is made. Were it not for the cleansing power of song, we may not have Plastic Ono Band, or basically Of Montreal’s entire discography. Beach Fossils’ Dustin Payseur essentially built his band out of songs he had written while a bit nostalgic and homesick for his native state of North Carolina. The resulting album doesn’t necessarily project a sound that’s more North Carolina than Brooklyn, but there’s a hazy, day-dreamy sound to it that conjures up some vaguely nostalgic sounds. These sounds may not stir up any specific memories, but rather a distinctly fuzzy feeling of a place one may have been before, a warm and lovely place.
This gauzy serenity on Beach Fossils sets in a league among the better acts to launch from lo-fi powerhouses like Slumberland, albeit without quite as much fuzz. It’s an album of post-punk melodies and surf guitar riffs, recalling early ’80s dream pop without quite veering close enough to one other artist’s particular sound. Yet with gorgeous pop tunes like “Sometimes” and “Youth,” the listener is likely to be overcome with the feeling that he’s heard these songs before, though not sure when and where.
Vague familiarity should not be confused with staleness, however, because Beach Fossils are anything but. Take “Vacation,” for instance, which is a simple enough pop song driven by jangly riffs and a spunky rhythm. Yet its infectious sound is one that warrants numerous listens, with a fun melody and simple, albeit universal lyrics: “I’m on my way to you/ It’s all I want to do.” Meanwhile, “Twelve Roses” launches straight into a propulsive punk-pop jam that’s almost all hooks, with just a little bit of a sexy slink.
While I don’t know for certain exactly what kind of atmosphere Dustin Pasyeur had in mind while dreaming about his North Carolina home, what he and his bandmates create on their first self-titled outing evokes a place I’d love to visit. There’s a sparse kind of insularity to Beach Fossils’ post-punk tunes, yet they’re incredibly easy to warm up to. As much reverb as there is floating around here, it’s not enough to cover the level of comfort and serenity this band projects.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.